Engineers weigh in on Hard Rock construction collapse

Updated: Oct. 16, 2019 at 4:37 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A pair of local engineers watching events at the collapsed Hard Rock hotel weigh in with their thoughts on the catastrophe.

Both say portions of the building could be salvageable and they say contractors should move quickly to shore up those massive construction crane towers.

Saturday’s hotel collapse stunned Civil Engineer, and consultant, Nick Cammarata.

“Knowing that there were 80 to 100 on site, and we lost three, we’re blessed that’s all that we lost,” said Cammarata.

From the French Quarter side of the Hard Rock you can see areas supported with scaffolding.

Steel poles supported other areas on the upper floors that collapsed.

"Some of the posts that remain in place, could be there because they were waiting for the concrete to continue to get strong," said Cammarata.

A pre-collapse picture of the construction site taken last week shows those metal supports across half of the Rampart St. side of the building towards Canal Street, something which engineering experts say will likely be studied.

Engineer H.J. Bosworth who has worked on a number of similar projects and is an expert in court says in his opinion... workers may have had a warning seconds before the collapse...which saved lives.

“In all likelihood this building started to creak, and they got out of the way,” said Bosworth.

The experts say there's a good chance, the lower seven floors can be saved.

"The lower floors appear very robust with a reinforced concrete type of structure," said Cammarata.

Engineers say the construction cranes, which the city says moved the past couple of days, are erected inside reinforced elevator and utility shafts.

The crane towers are still surrounded by the first seven floors of the building... which engineers say gives them a certain amount of lower stability.

"The building has three solid core tubes...shafts, maybe 20 feet square," said Bosworth.

One of the city's main concerns is the structural integrity of those construction towers, and Nick Cammarata says steps should be taken to try and minimize their impacts should one of them fall.

“If the cranes, start to fall have a mechanism, like controlled demolition, to allow it to fall in a certain kind of way,” said Cammarata.

The city says newly hired engineers are working to determine how to stabilize the cranes and find a controlled way to bring them down. Bosworth agrees.

"Get up there as soon as possible and strap that to something solid on the building," said Bosworth.

As for determining fault, it could take years.

“I recently wrote a report on a property I got involved in nine years ago, and it’s going to trial next year,” said Cammarata.

Bosworth and Cammarata say one possible outcome of the investigation and possible litigation could lead to improved construction techniques.

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